What’s the Word?

Kelly Cheng and Meghan Rogers

Recently, various new words have been added to the Oxford English Dictionary, but they might not be the kind of words one would expect. Most of the new additions to the dictionary are simply shortened versions of words and phrases.
The added words include “srsly” (abbrev. for seriously), “twerk” (v. to dance to popular music in a sexually provocative manner involving thrusting hip movements and a low, squatting stance), and “squee” (excl. used to express great delight or excitement).
Almost all of these words are exclusive to the American culture. Most of them are used with technology, especially texting, and don’t apply in other English speaking countries. Many of the words were drawn from social media and are only relevant to young Americans. By adding these words, the dictionary is excluding many English speakers who don’t live in America.
The definition of “twerking” is an American creation. Twerking originated in West Africa hundreds of years ago. It wasn’t a sexual dance, and was in fact practiced to convey joy at celebratory events such as weddings. America has a habit of taking elements from other cultures and adopting them into their own, but we often don’t understand the magnitude of what we are doing. What we have taken from another culture can mean very little to us, but is very meaningful to another, and can be offensive.
Initially popular among teenagers, words such as “selfie” (n. a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website) gained popularity from constant use on various social media sites. 2013 was the year of the “selfie” with common usage on sites like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Now with the addition of Snapchat, an app created for the purpose of taking selfies, popularity of the practice and word has increased significantly.
As older Americans try to keep up with the rapid pace of younger generations and over greatly expanding vocabulary, they often struggle to discern what is important and what is just a passing fad.